It’s probably a bit surprising that The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s beloved 1943 children’s book, is dedicated to an adult. Even more surprising is that that adult, Léon Werth, was a Jewish anarchist and leftist Bolshevik supporter.
Werth, a writer like Saint-Exupéry, penned over 30 books in his lifetime. He was critical and incisive, writing against colonialism, Stalinism, and the growing Nazi movement.
But writing wasn’t Werth’s only form of resistance. He and his wife, Suzanne, were active in the French resistance, offering their Paris apartment for secret meetings, equipment storage, and as a safe house for fugitive Jewish women and downed Allied pilots.
Despite being over twenty years older than Saint-Exupéry, the two became close friends and confidants in 1931. Years later, upon hearing of his friend’s plight in World War II, Saint-Exupéry was motivated to leave New York, where he was busy writing The Little Prince, and return to France to fight the Nazis. It was a friendship that would last until Saint-Exupéry’s disappearance in 1944.
“To Léon Werth,” the dedication reads, “when he was a little boy.”
March 17, 2014